Money vs. education at the collegiate athletic level
On March 19, thousands of Americans turned on their televisions and eagerly awaited the answer to the question: Where would the number-one high school football recruit in the nation, Terrelle Pryor, commit? As he unzipped his jacket and revealed that he will join the Ohio State Buckeyes, the students and alumni at Ohio State celebrated; they knew they were in for an exciting college football season.
For a few Division I recruits, the colleges they choose affect not only themselves and their families, but also the nation. However, other Division I, II, and III athletes recruited around the nation do not receive the same hype, and yet, smaller schools still have difficulty competing for these top-notch athletes.
Recruiting is all about salesmanship and how good of a deal you can offer your client. At the Division I level, top recruits are treated like celebrities. An official visit consists of more than an overnight stay in a dorm and a tour of campus. The coaches and players are selling the school, the location, the environment, the social life, and the education.
The recruits are persuaded by top-of-the-line gear, perfectly maintained facilities, and the fan base, so it might seem strange that there are still Division I-level players at Division III schools. It is not strictly the education that brings quality athletes to Division III schools like Carnegie Mellon; it is the package deal. Carnegie Mellon is a member of the University Athletic Association (UAA), which is a conference that prides itself on providing Division I athletics with a Division III education.
Students at schools like Carnegie Mellon, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of Chicago take pride in their abilities in the classroom and on the field, and this balance sells the school. Carnegie Mellon is recognized nationally because of academics, not athletics, but for many high school students, athletics can be a deciding factor in choosing to attend.
“We have the ability to get Division I-quality recruits because they are here for academics, and the competitive athletics are the icing on the cake,” said assistant women’s soccer coach Betsy Warren.
The most difficult aspect of recruiting high-caliber players at the Division III level is the lack of athletic scholarships. Fully-funded Division I schools have 14 full-ride scholarships they can distribute to athletes, while the NCAA prohibits Division III athletic departments from providing scholarships.
While athletic scholarship are off limits, scholar-athletes in the UAA receive a comparable experience to Division I athletes while in the program. The athletic funding for schools in the UAA allows for high-end equipment and facilities, along with the ability to travel by jet to compete. By providing funding to the athletic department, scholar-athletes can have the athletic experience of a Division I athlete and the academic experience of a Division III student.
While schools like Carnegie Mellon will probably never have athletes like Terrelle Pryor, the Division III name should not deter Division I-caliber athletes from competing at a Division III level.